This project will establish a fund to support Nationalities Service Center's (NSC) delivery of on demand legal and direct care services to unaccompanied children (UAC) from Central America who have been relocated to the Philadelphia area and identify as being in need. Since October 2013, more than 57,000 children have fled their homes and made the perilous journey north due to growing violence in their home countries, entering the U.S. without documentation to reunite with their families.
Most of the children who were detained at the border have been released to the custody of family members. Because Philadelphia is uniquely positioned in the northeast region, many children are joining family in this area. These youth are now waiting for their immigration court hearings, but if they cannot obtain a lawyer, they are forced to represent themselves through this complex process. A recent study has shown that 90% of UAC without representation are returned to the violence they fled.
Drawing on NSC's expertise as the largest provider of comprehensive services for immigrants and refugees in Philadelphia, the Bienvenidos Project will streamline the delivery of legal and support services for UAC. It will provide the necessary funds to support legal representation for unaccompanied youth seeking various forms of relief, including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, asylum, and family-based relief. It will also provide supportive services as needed for each child in proceedings.
For those children who have been released to family members, they now face a legal process that could take up to 3 years for their cases to be heard in court. In that time, these children and their guardians need support to navigate the complex legal system and to ensure that the children are receiving appropriate care and are kept safe. This fund will help to ensure that NSC can provide effective legal and support services throughout this long process.